Know That One"
What do these three scenarios have in common (besides involving pivotal entertainers of the late twentieth century)? The answer is: though the reactions are expressed differently, each audience's response is a way of saying, "I am familiar with this piece of entertainment, and I am eager to experience it again."
When the audience applauds the opening chords of Piano Man, their internal thought is not : "Oh, I've heard this so many times before. I donít want to hear it again." On the contrary they are thinking, "I like this one and I am excited to hear it again." When children say, "I know this one," they are not saying, "I've seen this trick before and I don't want to see it again." On the contrary they are saying, "I have seen that prop before and I do want to see it again."
To prove my theory try this test at your next show. When you begin a trick and the children shout, "I know this one," say, "Okay, then I won't do it." Watch what happens. You may be surprised to hear protests from the children, "No! We want to see it. Do it!"
Sometimes children 8-11 years old will say, "I know that one" because they are insecure. They want their friends to know that they are cool and in the know; that they won't let this magician put one over on them. They are only trying to look superior to their friends. It's not directed at you. You should not let it concern you at all.
How should you react when you hear, "I know that one?" You could get upset and let it fluster you. (Bad idea.) Or you could come back with any number of witty cracks. (Good Idea.) For example, try, "I know this one too," "That's great. I'm not sure how this works, so let's see if I do it right," or "Close your eyes and I'll tell you when it's over."
Then there is a third possibility: use it to your advantage. (New Idea.) Why not use the fact that they "know this one" against them? Use their expectations to create the unexpected. Use their familiarity to create a routine full of surprises. Mike Bent did just that, and this month he shares a funny routine which he calls "The Snakeless Snake Can Routine (Well Almost...)."
Magician introduces a snake can saying there is a surprise inside. The children yell out that they know what it is. Despite these protests the magician has a volunteer chose a random card. This reinforces the existence of the snake. Upon opening the can, we discover only a harmless spider. After some classic kid comedy, the magician is surprised when he opens the empty can again and a spring snake jumps out.
You will need: two standard snake cans, a giant spring snake, a small rubber
spider, a giant toy spider with a hook attached to it, and two packets of
cards as follows: Packet #1: A frog, a mouse, a lizard, a spider and a snake
with an extra spider card secretly stuck to itís back with roughing
spray. Packet #2: Five snake cards and five spider cards. These are held together
with roughing spray so that each spider card is roughed to the back of each
snake card. When they are fanned, they should look like 5 snake cards. This
is the basic McCombical Deck set-up. Credit goes to Billy McComb.
Say, "Does everyone here like surprises? Good, because I have big surprise for you." Take out spider can. "This may look like an ordinary, mild-mannered can of peanut brittle, but it's not. There is a big scary surprise inside the can! I'll give you a hint; it's creepy and crawly. Now if you've seen this before don't say anything because you'll ruin the surprise." Children will say they saw it and that is fine. In fact, you want them to. It helps the routine!
Put can on table in full view. "I have some cards with creepy crawly creatures on them, and one of these creepy crawly creatures is the surprise inside the can." Show cards one at a time as you say, "It might be a frog, or a spider, a mouse, a snake, or a lizard. Now, I need a helper, someone who wants to play Guess What's in the Can!"
Have a child come up to assist you. Ask her name, etc. "Now before Emily guesses, I want to show everyone what's in the can. No peeking Emily." Stand behind the child and show the audience the snake card with the spider card hidden behind it. Place it back on the deck, thumb off the spider card and lean it against the can with it's back towards the audience. The audience thinks it's the snake card.
"Emily, I have some cards just for you with the same creepy crawly creatures on them, but I don't want you to see them. So cover your eyes, and no peeking!" Address audience, "Keep a close eye on Emily while Iím getting the cards and let me know if she peeks." Go to your case to get the second packet. At the same time, secretly hook the spider onto your back or belt. Take out the cards and position yourself so that you are behind the helper. Fan the cards so that the audience can see that they are all snake cards. (Remember, even if they shout out that all the cards are snake cards, that's okay. It makes it a stronger surprise!) Now holding the cards face down, ask the helper to point to one of the card backs. Cut it to the top and thumb off the spider card. Have them hold it against their chest, so the audience can't see it.
Now stand to her side and ask her to tell everybody which creepy crawly they
picked. "Spider," says Emily. "What did you say?" you
ask. "Spider," Emily repeats. "That can't be right, you see
it's supposed to be a snake." Turn over your card and point to it without
looking at it. The kid's shout, "It's a spider!" Turn card around,
look at it and act confused. "That's strange. There's a snake inside
the can." Unscrew lid expecting a snake to jump out, and act surprised
when it doesn't. Lift lid revealing small spider. The kids will laugh.
"What's wrong?" The kids will shout, "There's a spider on your back!" "I know, I put the spider back in the can." Point to can in your hand and turn back around. Again, the kids go nuts. Turn towards Emily and ask her if she knows what the kids are talking about. Again the kids can see the spider. They scream. Continue doing this until the kids are at a fever pitch. "There's a spider on my back? No, there's no..." Reach behind your back and feel spider. Then act scared, remove spider, show it and toss it into your case. Shudder dramatically.
'Why didnít you tell me there was a spider on my back? You did? Oh well. At least there wasn't anything scary inside the can." Open can to release snake. Scream.
Mike Bent really understands children and childrenís comedy. This routine not only takes a novel approach to playing off the kids' expectations, but then adds classic kid show comedy bits and a wonderful surprise ending that resolves the routine beautifully.
Playing off the expectations of the children happens twice in this routine. First the kids think there is a snake in the can, and the magician proves them wrong. At this point the children know there is no snake in the can, and then the magician proves them wrong again.
You can play with this routine even without making the two decks of cards. Just get two snake cans and two spiders and tell the kids you have a "real creepy crawly" in the can... You can do all the bits with the spider on your back and fool the kids twice with their expectations of what's in the snake can. It can be just as much fun, even without the cards.
Mike agrees with me about "I know this one." He says, "It's not a bad thing. Kids like telling you what they know. They're proud of their knowledge. Plus, maybe they have seen it before. In this routine you want them to think they know what's going to happen, but you still are able to surprise them."
The McCombical effect can be hard for younger kids to grasp. If performing
for younger kids You can simplify the effect by just having 10 cards: from
the top: frog, lizard, snake, mouse and spider followed by 4 more spider cards.
Hold the cards face down and show them one at a time, transferring each to
the bottom. Pull out the snake, show it to the audience explaining thatís
the surprise inside the can, and return it to the pack. Then fan out just
the top cards (all spiders) for the spectator to choose. Then ask them what
they picked, they say "spider," then you say, "no I'm sorry
there's a snake in the can, not a spider" and proceed with routine.
To prove my theory, try this test at your next show. When you begin a trick and the children shout, ì"I know this one," say, "Okay, then I won't do it." Watch what happens. You may be surprised to hear protests from the children, "No! We want to see it. Do it!"
Children 8-11 years old have a different motivation to say, "I know that one." Usually it is because they are insecure. They want their friends to know that they are cool and in the know; that they won't let this magician put one over on them. Heck, they say they know it even when you simply hold a piece of rope. They can't possibly know what trick you are about to do. They are only trying to look superior to their friends. Itís not directed at you. You should not let it concern you at all.
Sometimes older children do know the effect and the climax and are so insecure that they will shout out the climax of the effect. To prevent this, be aware of the tricks your competition does and stay away from them. Or, as I have written before, make the routine so entertaining that knowing the climax doesn't diminish the experience of watching the full routine.